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NHL Death Watch: Pacific war; Sabres in trouble; Southeast still up for grabs?

Harrison Mooney
Puck Daddy

Since we're down to the final moments of postseason life for teams in contention, Puck Daddy solemnly begins a daily countdown to annihilation.

When we last checked in with the NHL Death Watch, there were eight teams sitting outside the playoff picture but still alive. That was Friday morning. Now it's Monday morning, and the playoff hopefuls have been whittled considerably. Over the weekend, we said our goodbyes to the Carolina Hurricanes, Winnipeg Jets, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, and Calgary Flames.

I've chosen to keep them on the graph this morning, just for one day, so we can all experience the closure of seeing the zero in their tragic number column. Consider it the fan version of identifying the body. Is this your team?

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Today we also celebrate the playoff berths of the New Jersey Devils, Chicago Blackhawks, and Ottawa Senators, who clinched this weekend.

The Senators are an especially special story. From the basement to the dinner table in one season: they're like Bubbles in Season 5 of The Wire.

There have been other big changes since Friday, too. Most notably, the Sabres' miracle comeback now needs a miracle, and the Pacific Division is still a complete clustercuss.

[What We Learned: The San Jose Sharks have big issues, playoffs or not]

Coming up, the playoff pictures for the East and West, as we shift the focus to playoff seeding. The full NHL standings and schedules can be found on Y! Sports.

All playoff percentages are from Sports Club Stats; tragic numbers and other figures via the NHL. A team is eliminated from play-offs when their "Tragic Number" hits 0.

Here's the playoff picture for the Eastern Conference bubble:

Team (Games Remaining) Place/Pts/ROW Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Florida Panthers (3) 3rd/91/31 -- 99.3 0 13
Washington Capitals (3) 8th/88/36 -- 90.3 3 74
Buffalo Sabres (3) 9th/86/31 4 10.4 0 10
Winnipeg Jets (3) 10th/81/32 0 0 0 0
Tampa Bay Lightning (4) 11th/79/33 0 0 0 0
Carolina Hurricanes (3) 12th/78/31 0 0 0 0
New York Islanders (3) 14th/77/26 0 0 0 0

The Eastern Conference is nearly settled, with only nine teams still alive and only three of those nine still looking to clinch a spot: The Panthers, Capitals, and Sabres.

The Sabres are in some serious trouble. After last Tuesday's emotional 5-1 win over the Capitals put them in the driver's seat, they proceeded to veer into the tire stack over the weekend, losing 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Penguins and 4-3 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of those losses stands out as a game that seemed very winnable going in. And hey, the Penguins have been struggling lately, so maybe they both were.

The Sabres' probability of making the playoffs better stresses how dire their situation is than their tragic number. They can now only reach 92 points, meaning one Florida victory puts the Panthers out of reach, and with the Capitals holding the tiebreaker, that means Buffalo needs Washington to stall at 91 points. It's about a 1 in 10 shot.

In fact, it's become more likely that the Capitals will finish in 3rd than in 9th. That too is a longshot, but it's a longshot with 14% probability as opposed to 10%. The Capitals and Panthers meet Thursday; depending on what happens on Monday and Tuesday, that game could be for control of the division.

And finally, one playoff matchup you can probably count on already: the Boston Bruins and the Ottawa Senators. With the Bruins clinching 2nd place in a 2-1 win over the Rangers Saturday, it's now 88% probable that the Senators will be opening the playoffs in Massachusetts.

Here's the Western Conference race:

Team (Games Remaining) Place/ Pts/ROW Tragic # % Chance of Playoffs % Chance of 7th % Chance of 8th
Los Angeles Kings (3) 3rd/91/33 -- 90.2 24 18
Phoenix Coyotes (3) 7th/91/33 -- 93.1 42 19
San Jose Sharks (3) 8th/90/32 -- 62.4 20 29
Dallas Stars (3) 9th/89/35 6 49.3 14 29
Colorado Avalanche (2) 10th/88/32 3 5.1 0 5
Calgary Flames (2) 11th/86/32 0 0 0 0

The Colorado Avalanche are still alive, but their best hope is to win both of their final games in regulation, and then pray the Stars and Sharks lose two of their final three games, also in regulation. As you can see, the chances of that happening are about 1 in 20.

More than likely now, the final three playoff spots in the West will be snatched up by three of the four remaining Pacific Division teams, and really anything could happen. There are still three interdivisional games to be played, and they all involve San Jose: the Sharks do battle with the Stars on Tuesday, then they finish the season in a home and home with the Los Angeles Kings.

In effect, San Jose will determine who makes the playoffs in the West. Does anybody really trust them to do that?

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